Two Kinds of Women

Says Who? Let's Change the Rules

two kinds of women

Society has always deemed there were two kinds of women — the virgin and the whore. Harsh, simplistic distinctions — happily, not worthy of our times and values. As for me, I’ve had my own standards for evaluating people — women in particular. Follow along and see if you think my “two kinds of women” standards are an improvement on those former, outmoded labels.

Two Kinds of Women. Still Clinging to Old Labels

As a teen, it was simple: There were two kinds of girls — good and bad. Girls who sat on the front of the bus — obviously, the good girls. And girls who sat at the back of the bus who made out (and more!) with the boys. Obviously, they were the ones having all the fun. I mean, obviously, they were the bad girls. And obviously, I mean, oh, so, obviously, I sat at the front of the bus and was an oh, so good girl.

I had no choice. I wasn’t Catholic. But I did have three older brothers and any one of them would have been oh, so happy to rough up any boy who got out of line with me. I mean oh, so happy!

It didn’t help that from the age of 12 on, I looked like I was a senior in high school or in college. It was a challenge to be a good girl, but I was a determined-to-be and stay a good girl all the way through college. And I made it. “Why?” you might ask since few of my Barnard College girlfriends felt so constrained. I guess it was the contrarian in me. Apply peer (or dating) pressure on me and watch out — I’m guaranteed to do the opposite!

Big Brother Weights In

Also, my eldest brother “sweetened” the pot with a graduation gift offer I couldn’t refuse: don’t get pregnant before graduating from college and I’ll treat you to a trip to Russia. In and of itself that may sound odd, but keep in mind, my brother was 21 years older than I. We lived in rough and tumble Las Vegas. So, I hung around with a rather adult crowd. And while our grandparents may have fled Eastern Europe and Russia, I studied Russian and my fondest dream was to get there. So, it was a dream offer. Also, a sucker bet. Since in any case, I was the proverbial “good girl” and the chance of me getting anywhere close enough to getting pregnant was — well, about as close as the US and the Soviet Union were!

The Second Ranking

When I was a young professional in Washington, DC, the “two-kinds-of-women” division was sartorial. Women either dressed in two-piece business suits, often pin-striped, with scarfs that mimicked ties or silk dresses or skirts with silk blouses. I was in the minority party, the dress/skirt camp, and was looked at askance by the suited, brief-cased ladies. But “rebel” that I was, I stuck to my anti-establishment look of pricy silk dresses and pencil skirts! Oh, James Dean had nothing on me. I am not making this up. This really was a “thing” with a group of women I was professionally associated with for an extended period of time. But oh, well. I carried on, worked hard, and thrived.

The Ladies that Scarf

While I did not have suit envy, I admit to scarf envy (as I’ve confessed previously). If you ask me, there really are only two kinds of women in the world when it comes to this accessory: Those who can scarf. Those who cannot.

I scarf and look like I’ve been fitted for a noose. Happily, my lack of scarf-y-ness is not an inherited trait. My niece is a noted surgeon. She can stitch together injured shoulders like the world-class orthopedic surgeon she is. Apparently, that is a transferrable skill. Because she can twist and tie a scarf with a skill that has filled me with envy unseemly in an aunt!

I Joke You Not

At one point in my professional life, I suffered from a non-gender specific “two-kinds-of-people- in-the-world” distinction. I learned about it when asked to try my hand at writing jokes for a speech my then-boss Secretary of State George Shultz was going to give. I was thrilled. Honored. What a fun assignment! I thought I’d be a natural. I mean, I’m funny, right? WRONG! Apparently, really wrong! I spent the weekend writing, re-writing, trying out jokes on my then-boyfriend — the future Handsome Hubby.

All weekend long I worked, writing more jokes, rejecting some, rewriting others, By Monday, I proudly presented the best of the batch to Secretary Shultz’s right-hand man.

Charlie — aka the right-hand man, although he may have been lefthanded — looked at the list for about 47 seconds. He never laughed. Never smiled. He just handed the sheet of paper back to me and said, “There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who can write jokes and those who cannot. You obviously fall into the second category.” And with that, my career as a joke writer for international diplomats came to a crashing halt.

Have You Heard the One about the Soviet Foreign Minister?

I still remember one of my jokes. It’s not a classified secret, so I can tell you.

I want to thank Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze* for the bracelets and watches he gave my staff during our recent visit to Moscow. Everyone really enjoys wearing them. Although it is a bit distracting to have them beep every time they go through security and airplanes fly overhead.

Get it? They were bugged with listening devices.

The Latest, Greatest “Two Kinds of Women” Divide

Now that I’m middle-aged, I can report of the latest two-kinds-of-women-in-the-world divide– one that encompasses cultural, sartorial, and emotional issues.

But this tale of “two kinds of women” is running long. So, I’m ending today’s blog on a cliff hanger. Come back next week for “Go Gray or Go Home!” It’s a real hairy subject — and yes, that’s a clue!

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* Historic Note

Eduard Shevardnadze was a Georgian (the country, not the US state) politician and diplomat. He was the de facto leader of Soviet Georgia from 1972 to 1985 and served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991.

Shevardnadze was responsible for many decisions in Soviet foreign policy during the Gorbachev Era including the reunification of Germany. Following the dissolution of the USSR, he was President of Georgia (or in equivalent posts) from 1992 to 2003.

He, alas, never heard my joke.

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4 replies
  1. Judy Keele
    Judy Keele says:

    So happy you’re up and writing again! There’s not been much to laugh out loud about without you! I too have scarf envy! But no matter how I tie, twist or knot a short body with not much neck makes me look like I’m wearing a holiday tablecloth. Your article reminded me of a favorite saying-I quote it often and have never taken the time to look it up to see who I should be giving credit to. With your expertise you may know right off the bat so let me know. It also reminds me if you!
    “Strong women: may we know them, may we raise them, may we be them.”
    And Karen, you certainly are!!!!!
    I added all those exclamation marks just got you.
    Thanks for making my day once again.
    Judy

    Reply
    • Karen
      Karen says:

      But you would look lovely in a tablecloth, especially a holiday tablecloth!
      I cannot find an attribution for the quote. And in terms of strong, good women – you are one of my personal all-time favorites. What I would give for a visit with you and George.
      Thank you, as always, for your kind and funny words.

      Reply

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